Lambanog standards eyed after 400 hospitalized during Christmas holidays

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2019 02:47 PM | Updated as of Dec 27 2019 10:35 PM

MANILA - The government will set standards on production of palm wine or lambanog after consumption of the liquor during the Christmas holidays left 17 people killed and 400 others hospitalized, a health official said Friday.

Most of the victims consumed lambanog from a Batangas brewery that did not have a certificate of product registration from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told ANC's Early Edition.

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"We're going to work with local governments to make sure that there is regulation at the level of the barangay because some of them are backyard producers," he said.

While regulations are being worked out, Domingo advised the public to consume only products with proper labels.

"If you look at the samples [that tested positive for methanol], they were put in bottles of mineral water or lechon sauce or any container they could find," he said.

Samples of lambanog from Laguna and Quezon tested positive for methanol, a substance that looks and tastes similar to ethanol.

Brewers must follow a "very precise" distillation process to ensure that the liquor they produce does not have more than 1 percent of methanol, Domingo said.

Consuming 30 ml or about a teaspoon of methanol is enough to kill a person, the undersecretary said.

"Your blood becomes acidic and you end up with what we call metabolic acidosis, which can attack all of the organs," he said, noting that symptoms will surface over a day after ingesting the chemical.

"It can turn people blind. It can harm your gut. It can harm your kidneys. It can harm your heart. Ito yung kinamamatay," he said.

The cost of putting up a facility that will pass FDA standards is one of the reasons why small-time breweries refuse to apply for accreditation, Domingo said.

Domingo did not disclose the projected cost of "investment," but noted that authorities would check the size, cleanliness, and the quality of water and machines in factories.

"There is an investment but it does pay off," he said.